* Patrick was born in 5th Century Britain into a wealthy Christian family with strong church connections;
    * Patrick was abducted by Irish raiders as a young man or boy, taken to Ireland and kept as a servant or slave to herd sheep;
    * Following divine inspiration Patrick fled from Ireland, wandered the desert (?) and finally arrived back in Britain. There were no deserts anywhere near there. so this is a JESUS-IAN kind of myth
    * Rising within the church, Patrick was chosen to convert the Irish and sent back to the island;
    * His rise and mission were not universally welcome, he hints at a "dark secret" that "rivals" knew about.
        If he'd been more specific we could really label him as a nutcase.
    * Patrick had a definitely apocalyptic vision of his mission in Ireland.

Saint Patrick's Time and Place

While Patrick himself never provided definite dates or places, the common assumption is that his mission in Ireland started in 432. This particular year seems to have been chosen for numerological reasons by later chroniclers and should not be seen as definite. In fact the mission may well have started a few years later, 456 is often mentioned by experts. We simply have way to connect Saint Patrick to any definite date.

Also bear in mind that Saint Patrick's was not the first mission to Ireland - chroniclers relate that a certain Palladius already was sent there in 431. While we know even less about Palladius than we do about Patrick, the latter's biographers seem to agree that the earlier mission was a failure. Again this might just have been a PR-exercise on behalf of Saint Patrick.

Saint Patrick - Harbinger of the Apocalypse

One point that may need a bit more explanation is Patrick's "apocalyptic vision". In his confession he repeatedly refers to Ireland as the furthest extreme of the world that he will bring into the arms of the church. This ties in with the popular believe that the Final Judgement would come once all nations accepted Christ - thus implying that the completion of Patrick's mission would bring the End of Days.

Obviously Patrick's geographical knowledge even of the world as it was known in his times was very patchy. He seems to have been totally and genuinely convinced, however, that he was chosen to convert the Irish and thus ring in the end of the world as he knew it.

This, in a nutshell, is the sum total knowledge of Patrick as related by himself. With some additional "facts" supplied by his earliest biographers.

Saint Patrick's Legend Lives

Though Saint Patrick obviously did not bring about the apocalypse, he became a cult figure in Early-Christian Ireland and was soon proclaimed a saint. Note that this was a simple process of acclamation in the early middle ages, not the complicated and long-winded papal process it is today. A saint was somebody who led an exemplary Christian life. But Patrick, at least according to his later biographers, also managed to work some truly stunning miracles.

His main feat seems to have been driving the snakes out of Ireland. The slithering ones had been connected to sin since the Garden of Eden. Zoologists will, however, tell you that there never were any snakes in Ireland anyway. When Paddy's followers mention his driving them out disvelievers will state 'there are no snakes in Ireland' and Jokesters usually retort "YA SEE! ST PADDY did that!"  Modern psychological interpretation has the right answer, however, equating  "snake" with "sin" and points out that Saint Patrick DID drive sin out of Ireland by bringing Christianity into it.

Patrick's other recorded deeds my be as allegorical as the snake episode. His famous forty days and nights of fasting on Croagh Patrick for instance would not be totally impossible physically. It might, however, be lifted straight from Biblical references. Meaning another JESUS-IAN activity. We'll never know for sure. Did Saint Patrick really light a a paschal fire to defy the High King of Tara and his druids? Why not - it would have been easy to do and certainly have helped to raise the missionary's profile. Separating the facts from the fictions in Patrick's biographies is next to impossible.

Saint Patrick and the Shamrock

Finally - why just is Saint Patrick nearly always shown with a shamrock? Apparently he tried to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to some Irish pagans. Who simply could not get their heads around the conflicting messages that there is but one God, but that He is a Trinity at the same time.

So Patrick plucked a shamrock and used this to exemplify the Holy Trinity. "(Father, Son and the HOly Ghost) Look, it is made up of three identical yet separate pieces - and those three pieces do not exist in isolation but are one." The Irish got the message and the shamrock became a national symbol. A more vital reason for this plant belong in every household was that chewing shamrocks cured bad breath. There were no dentists in that day so much needed.

Just Patrick? Or Saint Patrick?

What's in a name after all? A lot - if you see it from a historical perspective. These days we are used to speak about Saint Patrick, but in his lifetime things would have been different. Patrick himself never claimed any special place, let alone sainthood. The opposite is true - he called himself unworthy, a sinner and uneducated. Just Patrick. Whether this was "fishing for compliments" or true humility we will simply never know, maybe a mixture of both. Surely Patrick perceived his mission as important, bringing on the Final Judgement after all, but then he saw himself only as an important tool in the hand of God. At the same time there would have been many people in Ireland going "Yer man Patrick, he's a real saint, y'know?" But only later was Patrick elevated to the status of a fully fledged saint, recognized by his followers and Rome ...

To be absolutely correct the historical Patrick should be just Patrick, Saint Patrick being reserved for the man and the legend. But even some aspects of the historical Patrick as related by the man himself might be just legend. The recipe below is to honor the man, there actually were no potatoes in Ireland until the Conquistadores brought them back from PERU 1,000 years later at which time they were deemed the perfect SLAVE STAPLE FOOD.

ST PATRICK'S Irish  Herbed Potatoes

2-1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons minced chives
3 tablespoons snipped fresh dill or 3 teaspoons dill weed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Transfer to a large serving bowl.   In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over potatoes and toss to coat. Yield: 8-10 servings.